Wandering Stars: Songs from Gimpel's Lemberg Yiddish Theater, 1906-1910

By Sapoznik, Henry | ARSC Journal, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Wandering Stars: Songs from Gimpel's Lemberg Yiddish Theater, 1906-1910


Sapoznik, Henry, ARSC Journal


Wandering Stars: Songs from Gimpel's Lemberg Yiddish Theater, 1906-1910. Reno 128 (1 CD).

Since the first Yiddish reissues came out in the 1950s, listeners have been treated to the full spectrum of Jewish recordings issued on 78s starting with cantorial and Yiddish theater and, starting in the 1980s, klezmer recordings. But for the most part, these were drawn from American, not European 78s. It is sadly easy to understand why: coming into their own in the years immediately preceding World War One, Euro-Jewish records--and the communities for whom they were issued--quickly endured two World Wars, the Russian Revolution and the Holocaust. And with the destruction of the communities came the erasure of their culture. Never marketed in the United States as avidly as American recordings, which were to be exported to Europe, the sound of Yiddish Europe is, for most contemporary listeners, a kind of audio incognita. That, however, is starting to change.

The recent Bear Family box set "Beyond Recall: A Record of Jewish Musical Life in Nazi Berlin, 1933-1938" traces the ending of Euro-Jewish recordings. Now along comes "Wandering Stars: Songs from Gimpel's Lemberg Yiddish Theater, 1906-1910" to shed light on their fragile beginnings. In this vital work, producers Julian Futter and Michael Aylward have attempted to create a vest pocket soundscape of the newly minted European Yiddish stage in the early 20th Century and have gone a long way toward repatriating us with the formative sounds of a dynamic culture gone long before its time. The producers take us on a whirlwind look at a cadre of performers whose names are unknown even to the myriad fans of the Yiddish stage.

It is good to keep in mind that at the time these commercial discs were made, a freestanding secular Yiddish popular culture was barely older than was the art of recording itself. These recordings provide us with the luxury of hearing the emerging lines separating travelling folk singers from those singers who had morphed into seasoned stage performers.

In its slim 39 page booklet--a treasure trove of contextual materials on the formation of an important regional Yiddish theater--the producers pull out all the stops. Much information comes through original research as well as tapping into vitally important resources like the Yiddish language seven-volume Lexikon of the Yiddish Theater. which contains an astounding 3,500 biographies and pictures of Yiddish theater performers from its beginnings in the 1870s to the post-World War II era. …

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